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BRUSSELS (VN) — World cyclocross champion Mathieu van der Poel is now fully recovered from a series of knee injuries that kept him off the bike for the better part of the month, according to a press release issued Wednesday morning by his BKCP-Corendon team.
The 20-year-old Dutch prodigy fell hard during the second stage of the Tour de l’Avenir in late August, sustaining lacerations and impact injuries to his right knee. Though he returned to the race and finished second in stage 3, he abandoned the race the next day due to his injuries. Van der Poel underwent several medical procedures on the injured knee and was cleared to return to training when he began to experience pain in his opposite knee. Since then, he missed both the opening of the World Cup at CrossVegas two weeks ago, and the first major Belgian races in Neerpelt on Saturday.
On Wednesday morning, he completed a 45-minute workout on the rollers without pain, according to the team. Despite this, he will not return to racing in time for Sunday’s Superprestige series kickoff in Gieten in the Netherlands. At last year’s edition of the Gieten race, van der Poel surprised fans and racers alike with a last-lap surge to steal victory from Dutch rival Lars van der Haar.
He followed that early win up with strong performances throughout the season, eventually opting to forego his under-23 eligibility in order to race for his first elite world title in Tabor, Czech Republic. Van der Poel’s victory there, and an overall title in the 2014-15 Superprestige series, secured his place as one of the top cyclocrossers in the world.
Van der Poel’s absence from racing opens the door for rising Belgian star Wout Van Aert, runner up at last year’s world championships, with whom van der Poel shared an animated rivalry last season. Van Aert, who started his own season off with a string of wins at CrossVegas, and in Neerpelt and Erpe-Mere in Belgium, will surely be the man to beat until van der Poel can return to action.
Van der Poel is reportedly undergoing further evaluation and expects to return to racing after some additional time to rebuild fitness.